When my children were little, I was overwhelmed by all the stuff they received on birthdays. Sure, we got loot when I was a kid, but it felt like so much stuff, more than we needed, more than we could handle, when it was my kids.
So when Asher turned 4, I invited guests at his part to bring a gift for sick patients at Children’s Hospital, because I knew he’d get more than enough goodies from family alone. It felt so good that every year since, we’ve had the kids choose whom they want to help in honor of their birthdays.
Yes, it’s a day to celebrate me-me-me – but also to show gratitude and thanks for another year on Earth, for all the gifts we already have, for our lovely wonderful life. It feels good to focus outward at that moment as much as it feels good to shine the light on my beloved child.
And so yesterday was my darling daughter’s 10th birthday. In my family, turning 10 – a.k.a. Double Digits – is a Big Deal. When I turned 10, my aunt and uncle took me for an entire weekend of camping and alone time. I loved it. I felt so incredibly special.
So when my kids started approaching double digits, I decided to devote 4 days of a one-on-one trip with each of them. Asher got hiking in Sedona. Eliana got shopping and ocean-swimming in San Diego. Shaya has plans for an international trip (which I doubt will happen, but he IS a third child, so you never know).
Not only did my lovely girl get her birthday trip, my parents now have a tradition of taking 2 grandchildren at a time on a weekend trip to Chicago. Eliana and Grace will go sometime next spring.
There was a birthday dinner with family last weekend. Cupcakes to school yesterday on her actual birthday. Breakfast out today. Um, are we done yet?
Of course I want to celebrate my kids, and the best way I can imagine to do it is to shower them with love and attention. That one-on-one focus means the world. We all need it – not just from parents but from those closest to us, regularly.
Relationships are built on looking people in the eye and listening fully – not texting, not distracted conversations, not nodding while thinking of what you need at the grocery.
And yet, we have become so busy in this time that we rarely focus on one person or one thing at a time. It is the hardest thing to do as we get busier and more complicated.
Yesterday, I had breakfast with a rabbi friend, who talked about Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. We can only have so many relationships. And I’m willing to bet that Facebook and smart phones and all the many distractions are complicating that number further.
For my birthday next June, I am going to clear the schedule and turn off my phone. Depending on what day of the week it is, I’ll plan a meal with my husband and one with my kids and a hike in the woods and a cup of coffee with a good book and perhaps a rerun of Judging Amy.
Getting back to basics. The best gift of all.